I started working for my father in Japan over 15 years ago, and although I grew up at one of the biggest koi companies in Japan, I still knew little about the hobby. I still remember my surprise when I came across a handful of koi hobbyists who raised only Showa. I do not know, even today, anybody who raises only a certain variety like Kohaku or Kujaku. Showa seems to be the only variety that can get that kind of raving fans. Let’s talk about this exciting variety today.
I must say that for the last 10 years, no other variety has developed as much as Showa. This is quite obvious when you see Showa suddenly start winning grand championships at All Japan Koi Shows.
To understand this variety, it is good to understand its brief history. Just as Sanke’s proper name is Sanke Sanshoku, Showa is properly called Showa Sanshoku. Sanshoku means three colors, referring to the koi’s red, black and white. Showa is the name of the era of Japan’s emperor from 1901 to 1989, when this variety was devel- oped. To make it easy, we usually call them just “Showa.”
In the development of Showa, there are three things you should prob- ably know about. One is the variety’s roots — Matsukawabake. Another is Kobayashi Showa. And the third is Dainichi Showa.
Mr. Jyukichi Hoshino created the variety of Showa in 1929. It is said that he bred it from Matsukawabake and Ki Utsuri, two other varieties. And other breeders improve the breed’s sumi by strengthening the blood of Matsukawabake. Matsukawabake is a black-based koi with an unexpected change of sumi pattern. It is very important to know that Matsukawabake is the foundation of Showa. It is because of this that Showa has such a dynamic sumi pattern that changes. It was 30 years after the very first Showa by Mr. Hoshino that Mr. Kobayashi developed the famous Kobayashi Showa. He introduced Kohaku blood to this variety and developed brighter hi (red), better shiroji (white ground) and lacquer sumi (black) on the body of Showa. His Showa was definitely epoch-making and won the very first Grand Champion title at the All Japan Koi Show. We had to wait for another 20 years until Showa won the same title. The koi that won is the famous Dainichi Showa. This Koi is very important for two reasons. One is that Showa could finally have more shiroji (white ground) on the body. Since Kobayashi Showa, breeders have been trying to increase the amount of shiroji area on the body. The other is that Showa could finally have the body and size to win the championship. Compared to Kohaku and Sanke, Showa has a difficult time growing big and strong.
Differences between Showa Sanshoku and Sanke Sanshoku:
As both names have Sanshoku, it is apparent that both are three-colored koi. The difference, however, is in the way the sumi develops. Sumi develops on the face of Showa, but not on that of Sanke. While sumi develops in a form of Motoguro in Showa, it forms in strips in Sanke. Sumi develops more dynamically from the belly in the Showa, while it develops more dotted on the top part of the Sanke body. Think of it this way: Showa is a black koi with white and red; Sanke is a white koi with red and black.
Just like Sanke, Showa is Kohaku with a sumi pattern, although the sumi character is very different from that of Sanke. So we approach a koi as Kohaku first. Then, you see how sumi are — or will be — located to express the beauty.
When you look at Showa, check the following:
Please check the quality of the Kohaku. How is its shiroji (white ground)? Is it snow white? How is the hi (red)? Then, check how those quality colors form the design on the body of the koi. Unlike Sanke, the Kohaku pattern of Showa is not necessarily a must.
Why is the Kohaku pattern of Showa not as important as it is for Sanke? It is because of the characteristics of sumi on Showa. As I said, Showa sumi is that of the Matsukawabake variety. In other words, the foundation of the koi is the black color. Thus, it develops massively and dynamically. Even though it may lack in some part of the Kohaku pattern, if the sumi appears in good balance, it will be good enough. If you look at this picture and see only Kohaku pattern, you know it is not as good. But once the sumi develops, it will not matter. It is more important to predict what kind of sumi quality will appear and where.
What quality of sumi will develop where and how is a very important question. There are several things you must know in order to make the prediction, but information about the breeder is definitely the most critical one. At the very least, there are several breeders you should know, including Dainichi Koi Farm, Isa Koi Farm, Sekiguchi Koi Farm, Kanezo Koi Farm and more.
Lastly, selling Showa should not be that difficult. First of all, this is a variety that’s in very high demand. There are hobbyists who raise only Showa, so it’s obvious that the Showa variety does have something that lures people. It could be the powerful look, or perhaps the dynamic change. When selling one- to two-year-old Showa, the sumi is not yet revealed most of the time. So please try to see where the sumi are hiding, and explain to your clients where they may develop and how gorgeous they may look then.